My Story of Volunteering through COVID 19 lockdown

by Christopher Davis : Community Support worker for Calry Active Retirement Association which hosts 40 members

When volunteers were requested to register with Sligo PPN at the outset of the COVID 19 lockdown I automatically put my name forward for the Calry area so as to be in a position to assist the vunerable in the area including Calry Active Retirement members.

The Emergency Help Desk contacted me as soon as Garda Clearance was received with the assistance of Ciara Herity of the Volunteer Centre to see if I was in a position to assist with some calls they received and from that day on to the present I have assisted with:

  • Shopping
  • Pension collection
  • Prescription collection
  • Disseminating update information forwarded by PPN in relation to the latest information on COVID 19 to Calry Active Retirement Members
  • Providing hand sanitizer, face visors and face masks to those who needed to leave their homes to attend appointments
  • Delivery of meals on wheels
  • Bringing persons to and from Doctors appointments

Once I made a first contact with a person requiring assistance I gave them my number if the wished to contact me directly which many of them did and this hopefully helped to ease the load of calls on the emergency responders.

As the lockdown continued the area I responded to expanded beyond the Calry area as follows:

  • Riverstown
  • Coolaney
  • Strandhill
  • Rathbraughan
  • Sligo Town
  • All Calry area
  • Maugheraboy
  • Five Mile Bourne

Advantages from responding:

  • I have met with many grateful people who enjoyed the visit and a chat while receiving their delivery be it of shopping or information leaflets. I have also gotten to know staff in the various shops and post offices and built up a rapour with them.
  • Also I now know where everything is in many of the supermarkets and can carry out shopping tasks in very quick time.

As with advantages there are always disadvantages namely:

  • Asked to pick up pre ordered non essential items at shops eg. Tea towels
  • 2 volunteers arriving at the chemist to pick up medications for the same person
  • Call to pick up shopping 15 mins before shop closure especially when a fair distance away from the shop and just sitting down to own meal

Those cocooning enjoyed being kept informed of the latest up to date information, had an opportunity to discuss it and clarify issues especially those who did not have access to social media / internet.

They also enjoyed the programs that were run on the local radio each morning for them for example the weekly exercise program which took place on the Francie Bylan show and which ran for a number of weeks and of late the weekly health and nutrition programs.

Even though the initial lockdown has passed for the present, there are still some people in need of assistance. I am continuing to shop for some elderly who are still afraid to leave their home. During the Summer months grass cutting overtook the shopping especially for those who were not up to the physical effort to carry out the chore themselves through illness etc. Meals on wheels delivery continue and also Doctors appointments. The opening of the hairdressers encouraged a number of elderly / vunerable groups to venture outside again.

The  elderly / vunerable continue to seek information. They have gone out of their way to meet the changes that have been forced upon them since COVID 19 arrived. They are constantly looking out for each other and using the telephone to make contact with each other.

They are going to find the Winter months very long because of the fact their weekly meetings are adjourned for the present.

The assistance of Jude Mannion, the Sligo PPN and the emergency response volunteers was a great help during a very difficult time for many and they all helped me provide the service I signed up for in keeping me posted with up to date information etc.

Having confirmation letter for Sligo County Council helped greatly at checkpoints which enabled me to travel freely throughout the county and maintain contact with those cocooning and in need of services.

Chris, in this picture is receiving a batch of specially commissioned Bealtaine postcards from Jude Mannion of Sligo Co Council. The idea of the postcards is to follow the old Irish Bealtaine tradition of leaving May flowers at your neighbours door, said to bring good luck, Chris distributed these to members of the active retirement members in the Calry area.